A transition of power: former and current SGA presidents send students a message

2018-2019 SGA President Chase Holcombe

2018-2019 SGA President Chase Holcombe:

With the 2019-2020 Student Government Association Officers elected and preparing to take office, the year for the current SGA is coming to an end. This previous year has certainly been eventful for SGA. There are a variety of accomplishments from this year that I would like to mention, but there is also much work to be done by the current officers and senators and those to come.

At the student government retreat in the summer of 2018, SGA made it a goal to make data driven decisions. I was very thankful for this in particular since this was a primary issue on which I ran. I have been involved in the Student Government Association ever since beginning at UNA in the fall of 2016 and it has always been a perennial issue to actually figure out what it actually is that the majority of campus wants. That is why last semester, I sent out a carefully crafted poll on behalf of the Student Government Association that had been approved by the Senate. This poll helped SGA and the University administration make decisions on the issues addressed in the survey. For example, after the respondents to the survey voted overwhelmingly against a proposed grading scale change, the administration pulled the proposed policy change all together with no questions asked. It is true that student input is very important, and the voice of 1800 students goes much further than any statement by the SGA.

Additionally, the survey revealed that a large portion of campus last semester wanted the University of explore the possibility of an on-campus stadium for football and soccer. In December, the SGA examined these numbers and passed a resolution in response urging the University to create a workgroup to explore the feasibility of an on-campus stadium. I am excited to report that Dr. Kitts has created a workgroup to look into exactly this. Along with some community members, alumni, and fellow student Grant Gunn, I am a member of this workgroup. Grant and I are preparing to visit large groups on campus to present our findings so far on the feasibility of a stadium and gather student input on the ideas. Since we are working on a tight time schedule with limited resources, we simply cannot visit every group. Because of this we are planning to host two open forums. I would like to personally encourage all students to come to at least one forum for to learn about the ideas and also give us valuable feedback. More information on the times and places of these forums with be pushed out through SGA channels, so be sure to watch closely!

During election season last year, I promised many groups that, if elected, I would look at what other similarly sized institutions and other DI institutions were doing in regards to SGA, university policy, programming, etc. Over Christmas break, along with several other SGA members (including your VP of Senate elect Rebekah Matthews), I was able to travel to UAB, UAH, and the University of Alabama to explore the inner workings of these universities. One item that we observed was that the SGA at the University of Alabama provides students free blue-books to give back to the students and as an outreach item to get students into the SGA Office. We were so impressed by this that Senator Matthews sponsored a bill immediately upon return to UNA to allocate money to do the same. Blue-books will be available very soon in the UNA Student Government Association Chambers. Additionally, we observed several long-term ideas for the GUC at UNA and examined how programming boards work at these institutions. It stuck out to us that our structure for UPC is out of line with best practices at these universities and others that we later researched. So current VP of UPC Becca Bush put in countless hours to carefully craft a proposal to revitalize our UPC and incorporate ideas from universities that have a higher students-reached to dollar ratio. We are currently working on implementing this proposal and are excited for the future of programming on campus.

Continuing with programming over this last year, I am extremely proud of the Programming Council for putting together wonderful events and reaching students across campus. Additionally, this year we put a large emphasis on the collection of data on presence in our programming. That is why we asked students to swipe in at so many events. We have collected data this year to see which student groups we are and are not reaching. It is my hope that future SGAs will continue to collect this data and utilize the data that we collected this year to tailor events to reach all types of students on campus. I cannot stress how valuable Vice President Becca Bush has been this year. She has done a fantastic job leading and organizing UPC this year and will leave large shoes to be filled.

At the end of the day, there is very little that an SGA President can do alone. None of the previously listed accomplishments have been done without the help and oversight of many SGA members. This year I have been blessed to work with some great individuals including a wonderful exec. We have been able to do everything previously mentioned as well as other things, like rewriting the SGA constitution, by working together as a team and all maintaining an attitude of humility. This is a lesson that I hope the future SGA Officers remember.

I look forward seeing what the future officers are able to accomplish. I feel comfortable handing the keys over to our president elect Sam Mashburn. I am confident that Sam will do his best to lead as a servant leader. Many students have reached out to me with ideas and concerns this year, and I hope that these same students and many more do the same this upcoming year. The SGA is an institution made by the students, for the students. So be sure to let your voice be heard. Additionally, I would consider all students to consider applying for Senate. Student government is an ongoing process. It is my hope that the upcoming SGA continues the projects started during this administration and explores other ways to increase student utility on campus.

2019-2020 SGA President Sam Mashburn:

As I waited for the results of the runoff election to be announced Wednesday night, I was overcome by a deep since of gratitude. Over the last three years, I have been very blessed to have been able to serve the students of this great university in many ways, and I owe many people many thanks.

Thank you to everyone who supported me in this election. Thank you to everyone who voted. If you did not vote for me, I want to work with you. I represent all students, and I work for you.

Over the last few days since being elected SGA President, most of my conversations have started the same way. A friend will say, “Congratulation on the election!” To which I reply, “Thank you! I can’t wait to get to work for the students.” And I really can’t wait.

I have already begun talking to President Holcombe, 2019-2020 SGA Executive Officers, students, university staff, and community leaders on how we can make the most of the short time we have in office. One of my favorite quotes about work and life is, often attributed to Abraham Lincoln, who is believed to have said “If you have eight hours to cut down a tree, use seven sharpening the axe.” Preparation is essential for success, and that’s why the incoming Executive Officers are preparing now to serve you starting in April.

We have big shoes to fill.

President Holcombe and all of the outgoing officers have done a phenomenal job serving the student body. Our job now is to take the foundation they have laid and build on it. We will continue to survey students to gain feedback on important issues facing us a student body. We will continue to push forward with the goal to build an on-campus football and soccer stadium. We are excited to work with the new UPC structure to make SGA sponsored events that connect with more students than ever before. We will continue to do our homework, be educated, listen to students, and act in their best interests when it comes to approving or disapproving university policy. I have no doubt each of the incoming Executive Officers is well-equipped and ready for the role they are stepping into.

The main issues I campaigned on were: improving SGA efficiency and UPC effectiveness, improving student safety, improving campus accessibility, and promoting student liberty. I am excited to have the opportunity to work for solutions in these areas alongside the many members of SGA.

The new constitutional changes to the operation of UPC will go a long way towards increasing UPC efficiency and effectiveness. I’m confident incoming Vice President of Linden White and I can work together to see the new structure is implemented smoothly, and we can work together with Vice President of Senate Rebekah Matthews to make additional changes as needed.

Campus safety and accessibility go hand-in-hand. I want to strengthen our educational programs for students about systems and resources we have in place to help them; as well as work on improvements to infrastructure to make our beautiful campus functional and accessible for all students, regardless of their physical abilities. As for promoting student liberty, I will continue to support the will of the students, and I look forward to standing for students on the Board of Trustees as President Holcombe has done so well.

As I said in the first words of my campaign announcement, “A new year brings new opportunity”. Thomas Edison once said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Some may look and say we have a lot of work. I enjoy that. We have plenty of opportunities, but we need you. Reach out to a member of SGA.

Apply to join SGA! With your feedback, your involvement, and your buy-in we can keep making improvements for students. I look forward to hearing from you, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work for you. Roar Lions!